Chances

Sometimes, the choices we make have unforseen consequences.

"Charles?" Larry's familiar voice penetrated through the sudden blackness. "Charles, are you alright?"

But he couldn't help thinking that there was something a little bit different about the voice. It sounded… younger. Less world weary. But he wouldn't say happier. Strained. More like Larry had been before. More like he'd been before, come to think of it. Realising that Larry would be getting worried, he gave a groan of response.

"Are you alright?" he repeated.

"Where's Don?" He mumbled. "Did they get him?"

There was silence. "Larry?" he probed.

Slowly pulling himself up, he opened his eyes. And reality set in.

"Charlie, be careful! Go home! You're not supposed to be here!" Don shouted, angrily.

Charlie frowned at his brother. "But it's important."

"It always is," Don sighed. "But you stay here."

Charlie nodded a reluctant acceptance. "Charlie, it's not that I don't want you here, you know that. I don't want to lose you too."

Charlie looked down at the pavement, and Don pulled open the car door, ready to let Charlie in. "Donnie?"

"Yeah?" his brother answered.

"If you could go back in time, and save her, would you do it? I know I would."

Don shrugged. "Everything had consequences, Buddy. I'd probably-,"

But Don's last words were cut off and Charlie barely felt the slug to his head as his body crumpled lifelessly to the ground, his last thoughts being those of his mother, and how he wished to save her.

Charlie stood up, grabbing a hone off his desk, and tapped in a familiar number. "The number you have dialled is not in service. The number you have…" Charlie hung up, frustration growing. Larry watched in confusion

Charlie's eye caught the date on the paper. "5 December 1997" he murmured.

Looking back up at Larry he wordlessly held up the paper.

He took a moment to gather his words. "Unless I'm hallucinating, I just travelled in time."

He found himself at a café, with a budding young physicist. Sabela Collins. She was a pretty girl, and Charlie certainly noticed it. After spending the next two months with her investigating her theory of time travel, her made his move on her. The pretty blonde – otherwise like Amita, his mind guiltily told him,– did not object. She was smart, funny, and she understood Charlie. When they'd been dating for a year, he brought her home to meet his parents, who were delighted that he'd got a girlfriend, and a week later, her proposed to her, the love of his life – his mind pushing thoughts of the other future to the back of his mind.

Dear Don,

Charlie crossed it out. Don,

He crossed that out too. He sighed, and picked up the phone.

"Eppes," Don answered the phone.

Charlie grinned. It almost sounded like Don, before he'd come back. "Donnie, it's me."

"Oh, hey Charlie. Listen, I'm busy right now, I'll give you a call when I'm done."

He hung up the phone before Charlie even had a chance to respond.

It was two days later that Don rang back, and in the meantime, Charlie had tried to sink back into his maths, but Sabela – the sensible, no nonsense girl that she was, had promptly dragged him out of the garage for a little bit of fun, she said, while Margaret and Alan looked on. Yes, she was good for their Charlie, even if they didn't like how incredibly forward she could be.

When Don called back, Sabela answered the phone.

"Hello, Eppes household, this is Sabela speaking." There was a short silence at the other end of the line.

"This is Don. Who are you?"

Sabela gave a harrumph of disgust. "I don't know why he insists…" she muttered, half to himself. "I'll get Charlie for you. He can explain."

"Donnie?" Charlie eagerly took the phone from his new fiancé. "How are you?"

"I'm good." Don agreed. "How about you? What did you ring me for? Who was that?"

Charlie was painfully reminded of the old timeline, wher it had taken their mother's death to bring them close together again. "I'm getting married, Donnie. Sabela's my fiancé."

Don was clearly shocked, and managed to stutter a congratulations. "Tell me about her,"

"I will, Donnie. You'd love her. Anyway, I'm ringing because I'd like you to be my best man.."

"Me? Wow, Buddy, are you sure?"

Charlie nodded, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Donnie couldn't see him. "I wouldn't have anyone else."

So Don came down for the wedding, being Charlie's best man. It didn't quite patch things up between them, but Charlie was determined not to give up. "I can't," he told his wife. "I have one chance to make everything perfect, one chance, Bella, and I can't have perfect without my brother."

Sabela, while understanding what Charlie meant, and knowing about the 'future', still didn't like Don all that much. He was never there for his brother, she insisted. Just because he was in a different reality didn't mean that there was anything he could do here. Still, she didn't want to argue too much, and just barely allowed Charlie to make Don godfather to their oldest daughter, Devorah Margaret, named for both their mothers.

The years passed by. Sabela and Charlie had four more children, all girls, in two sets of twins and Don moved back to LA to be closer to his goddaughter after breaking up a relationship with Kim.

It didn't escape Chalie and Sabela's notice that all four of their children seemed to have inherited Charlie's genius, though in different fields.

Devvie was a physics genius, while the first set of twins, Rose and Zillah, respectively, loved chemistry and biology above all other things. Helena, the next oldest, but by only half an hour, excelled at math, like her father, while the youngest, Josephine, more commonly Josie, picked up languages with an unheard-of ease, learning four fluently in her first three years, where most children had hardly managed one.

Charlie had eventually met Amita, but found he felt nothing for her, even if the same could not be said for her. Eventually, on Sabela's orders, he invited her around for dinner, and Sabela convinced the children that it would be a good idea to get Daddy's friend to want to never return. She was never anything but professional from that moment on, and when she finished her degree, they never saw each other again, something that Charlie couldn't help but regret. He would have liked to at least been friends, but Sabela wouldn't have it.

2006 dawned far too soon. Charlie loved his life. He had a wife, five children, both his parents, his brother. He had loads of friends, and his children all went to an expensive school for the gifted, where they'd fit in, and get their special needs seen to. They all had a tutor once a week, and while the budget was stretching a little bit thin, he'd just been given very important work for the NSA, who assured him he'd get more than $1 000 000 for the deed, which would help. He couldn't be happier with the way this time had turned out, he told his wife with a grin.

She smiled weakly at him. "Charlie, I think someone has to take your Mom's place."

Charlie looked at her, took in her pale colour, rasping breath and gasped. "No, no. Sabela, I don't understand. You were fine a while ago. Absolutely fine. Yesterday… I don't understand. I'm getting you to a hospital."

It was no use. Two days later, they were still in the hospital, the whole family coming in every so often. Don was looking after Devvie, Zillah and Rose, but there wasn't enough room for all of them at his place, so Alan and Margaret were looking after Helena and Josephine. It was just Charlie and Sabela there, in the last hours.

"Charlie, sweetheart. I told you. You saved your Mom. We don't know how. But I have a feeling it's long overdue that someone take her place." And then, she took her last breath, a peaceful smile on her face, and Charlie raged.

Six months passed, and Charlie struggled to look after himself and the kids. In November, Charlie glimpsed one of Don's cases, and helped him solve it. Before lond, he w s 'back' consulting for the FBI, and Don didn't see it as such a bad thing, as it gave Charlie something else to focus on other than his grief for his wife. The children liked it too, Daddy was more normal, and Uncle Donnie came to visit more often. It was a win-win situation, for them. And so another year passed, and it was December 5, 2007.

"Don!" Don's head whipped around.

"Charlie! What are you doing here! You could get hurt, Buddy. Your kids need you. Charlie, you need to stay at HQ."

"But Don, you need to move. According to my calculations, the sniper's going to shoot right here, in about thirty seconds,"

"Are you mad? Why come here if you know that! Why don't you call! Charlie, get in the car," he pulled the door open.

"Donnie, if you were me, and you had to choose between Mom and Sabela, who would you chose?"

Don sighed. "Now's not a good time, Charlie. But I honestly don't know."

"I'd choose Sabela," Charlie murmured. "That's what I'll do this time. I'll choo-,"

He never finished his word, the bullet pushing through his skull and knocking him dead. He froze for a millisecond, before his lifeless body crumpled to the ground. Don stared in shock. "Charlie. No. Charlie, Buddy, wake up."

"Charlie! Don't do this to me. What about your kids, huh? What would Sabela say if she knew you'd left them like this?" Don growled, shaking the dead body, as if it could hear him.

Later, Don found a journal in Charlie's room detailing exactly what had happened the first time around, and this time. That he knew the sniper would kill him.

Donnie,

I don't know if you'll get this. I don't know what happens to the original universe, but just in case, I'm leaving this. I want you to look after the kids. Not Mom and Dad. I know they'll try, but I think you can do a better job. You're younger, you'll be able to keep up with them. Anyway, I went back today, to try again. I'm confident the only way to do it is being killed by that sniper. I don't know, but it's my best bet. I'm going to let Mom die. I'm sorry. But Sabela is more important. I need her and so do our kids. The only ones needing Mom are you and I, and I'm sure that as adults, we'll manage without her. See you,

Love,

Charlie

Don felt a strange compulsion to believe his brother, and hoped he'd gotten what he'd gone for. The truth, however, was that this time, all that had been waiting for Charlie when he died… was death.

Author's Notes: I hope you enjoyed. Please review, even if just to give me tips. I know that Sabela is a bit of a Mary Sue. The original plan included a bit more of a story, in fact, it was meant to be more than a one shot, but I didn't have time, and in a fic this short, I couldn't develop and OC very much. All comments welcome.